Anyone who knows me knows I probably should have been born in a different decade. I’m obsessed with classic movies, vintage fashion, and, of course, old-school restaurants and bars. Having lived in NYC for nearly five years, I grew to love “Old New York” establishments. Sure, there are countless vintage themed speakeasies and cafes, but I prefer a place with history. Here are my favorites. Take note that none of them have windows.
Located in the Carlyle hotel, this is my absolute favorite bar in NYC. I couldn’t go that frequently as it’s far from cheap ($25 cover most nights and ~$21 per drink). But the drinks are good, the atmosphere is unique, and the live jazz is what I live for. You seriously feel like you’ve stepped into a Casablanca-eqsue jazz bar. It’s quaint and you can tell there are quite a few regulars. The artwork is also amazing as a fan of Ludwig Bemelmans’ Madeleine. Fun fact: Bemelmans wouldn’t accept payment for his work. Instead, he requested a year of free stays at the Carlyle.
Originally a Prohibition-era speakeasy (and possibly the only one still standing), The 21 Club is a true New York landmark. All of my favorite Hollywood icons have dined here, along with nearly every president. In fact, many have their own favorite table to reserve because they dine here so frequently. It’s also featured in numerous movies and TV shows. I will admit, the food isn’t amazing, but it’s absolutely worth it.
Historical, cozy, and the best burger in New York? Count me in. (Ok so I’m a vegetarian now, but I wasn’t at the time! And it was without a doubt the best burger I ever had.) Minetta Tavern was a regular hang for some of the biggest writers of the 20th century. Stepping in the door on a cold winter night is like finding an old inn to escape from the snow. Be warned though, reservations are tough to come by. We opted to dine at 11pm rather than wait two more weeks. Even though I won’t eat the burger, I’d love to go back to Minetta for the warm, bistro environment next time I’m in town.
Grand Central Oyster Bar
Another iconic spot, Grand Central Oyster Bar is known for its high-vaulted ceilings, fresh seafood, and convenient location for travelers and commuters. While it’s not nearly as intimate as the other spots on this list, the architecture is undeniably impressive and the food is pretty good, too. You should also definitely check out the quirky bathrooms.